NEW DELHI: Spiralling prices of fuel and other commodities in crisis-hit Nepal have given rise to smuggling at Indo-Nepal border areas, said Seema Shashtra Bal sources. For the past two months, Nepal’s southern ethnic minority, the Madhesi, has been barring the entry of trucks of fuel and essential goods from India as part of protests demanding greater rights under Nepal’s new constitution. The blockade has left this Himalayan-locked country with shortages of fuel and cooking gas, medicines, and increasingly, basic relief supplies like tents and blankets.
There are mile-long lines for petrol and diesel, winding snakes for LPG cylinders in most Nepal cities. Commuting is a challenge: Public buses are overcrowded, taxi prices have shot up and many schools have shut. A black market in petrol is flourishing, due to which private vehicles have increased on roads.
According to sources, a litre of petrol is being sold at Rs 250-300 in Nepal while diesel is being sold for Rs 150-200 a litre in black market. Gas cylinders are the most difficult to get by and a single cylinder is costing Rs 3,000-4,000.
The steep prices of these commodities have encouraged Pilibhit residents living in border areas to smuggle these item across the border through secret routes in forests.
Until a few weeks ago, Nepal used to import all of its petroleum supplies from India. Roughly 300 fuel trucks used to enter into Nepal on a normal day, which has now dropped to 5-10 fuel trucks daily since the start of the crisis.
SSB spokesperson Kumar Abhinav told TOI, “There were more than 20 recent incidents (in a month) where we have seized fuel, fertilizers, medicines and other articles. We have arrested 10 people for smuggling. They belonged to border villages from Hazara, Madhotanda. We cannot deny the fact that villagers are involved in the smuggling of such articles through secret entries in forest areas. We have beefed up the security in all the border outposts. However, the people from these villages know the ins and outs of the forest areas and have information about many secret routes which they use for entering Nepal.”
A Madhotanda local who didn’t want to be named said, “People on that side of border are in dire need of these articles. For us, it means quick money. It is mutually beneficial. And we are not smuggling any anti-national articles.”